The power of mentorship in orthopedic surgeons' careers


Mentorship can be a powerful force in a surgeon's career. 

Two orthopedic surgeons connected with Becker's to answer, "What role did mentorship play in you becoming the orthopedic surgeon you are today?"

Ask Orthopedic Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting orthopedic care. We invite all orthopedic surgeon and specialist responses.

Next question: What is the No. 1 trait all great orthopedic surgeons have?

Please send responses to Riz Hatton at by 5 p.m. CST Thursday, Nov. 9.

Note: These responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Philip Louie, MD. Spine Surgeon at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (Tacoma, Wash.): Mentorship played a huge role in my becoming an orthopedic surgeon and continues to play a larger role in my growth as an orthopedic surgeon and overall person. As a trainee, mentoring was incredibly influential on my perception of specific fields of medicine and my consideration of future career choices. In fact, studies have shown that residency programs with formal mentoring programs have shown substantial impacts on personal development, career guidance, career choice and research productivity.

For me, the greatest ongoing benefit of mentorship is the ability to seek feedback from different perspectives, especially during these formative years. Yes, a large part of being an orthopedic surgeon is the ability to care for patients and treating their various injuries and presentations. My mentors are critical in this ability and growth to care for patients as I learn from my experiences.

However, in order for me to be an effective orthopedic surgeon, I need to maintain a balance in my life. Being there for my family, maintaining my health, and engaging in activities that keep me refreshed to be successful in my clinical and academic pursuits may be even more important. Learning the person behind the master surgeon has continued to be an invaluable gift, one that provides me with a broader perspective of a successful surgeon as well as a personal role model in and outside the operating room. I thank them for their time and efforts and hope to be able to impact others as much as they have impacted me.

Anthony Melillo, MD. Founder of Bay Oaks Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine (Houston): I owe my entire career to the late Richard Preator, MD. I was a college student at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces from 1980-82. I had just transferred from Rutgers University in New Jersey (1978-80) as an accounting/pre-law major. I needed a change of scenery and my great uncle told me to visit him in Deming, N.M., for the summer. I enjoyed southern New Mexico so much that I decided to transfer.

Having no money, I took a position as a hospital orderly on the surgery floor at Las Cruces (N.M.) General Hospital. One day, I was introduced to Dr. Richard Preator, a general orthopedic surgeon and a recently retired United States Air Force surgeon.  Needless to say, he introduced me to the field of orthopedics. He allowed me to shadow him in his office for the summers and even allowed me to scrub in his cases as a college student. I switched my major to biology/chemistry and dedicated my career to medicine. I even attended the same medical school as Dr. Preator (Marquette University and Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee).  In fact, I nominated him in med school and he was approved to become a fellow member of Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society with me in 1986.

He guided me into orthopedics and I even became a U.S. Navy orthopedic surgeon via the Health Scholarship program. Dr. Preator was truly an officer and a gentleman. To this day, I pray for his soul as he passed away in his late 60s of metastatic prostate cancer. I hold him and the late Hugh H. Chandler, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston responsible for my successful career as an orthopedic surgeon and more so as a better human.

I have mentored many young men and women over these years. Many have become physicians and several orthopedic surgeons. It was the least I could do to pay it forward.

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